Tasting Notes, 2013: Turnbull Wine Cellars

Turnbull Wine Cellars has long been one of my favorite Napa Valley producers, although the winery’s portfolio has evolved in ways that make me somewhat ambivalent, if I can be honest. There was a time, not too long ago, when Turnbull produced its Old Bull Red, an inexpensive (around $20) catch-all blend with plenty of terrific Oakville pedigree. Unfortunately, Turnbull ceased production of the Old Bull Red with the 2009 vintage, thus ending the availability of one of my staple “pizza” wines.

At the other end of the spectrum, Turnbull has developed an amazing single-vineyard program over the last several years, showcasing the winery’s four Napa Valley properties. These are delicious wines, to be sure, but they definitely command single-vineyard prices. With that in mind, I am thankful that Turnbull still produces its Napa Valley Estate Cabernet, a wine that ranks as one of my top 20 Napa Cabernets for under $50.

I had the pleasure of tasting a handful of the Turnbull wines last week, and my overall assessment of the portfolio is that the wine-making has headed in a decidedly elegant direction with finesse to spare. Although I miss the Old Bull Red, I suppose that evolution is a good thing.

2012 Turnbull Old Vines Sauvignon Blanc, $34 This wine is crafted from 40-year-old vines from Turnbull’s Fortuna Vineyard. The oak regimen is subtle, with 12% spending 2-3 months in French barrels. The main thing that struck me about this wine (aside from the atypical Burgundian-style bottle) is that it’s more mellow than crisp. I would classify this wine as a Chardonnay drinker’s Sauvignon Blanc.

2012 Turnbull Rosé, $22 • Ostensibly, this is the wine that “replaced” the Old Bull Red (both wines being by-products by nature). The 2012 Turnbull Rosé is 65% Syrah and 35% Cabernet, and I’m not sure how much these components will dictate future blends. I found the wine enjoyable, although my favorite California rosé (non-sparkling) is produced by Unti Vineyards. 

2010 Turnbull Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, $60 • Three of the winery’s estate vineyards (including the tasting room property) exist within the Oakville appellation, and this wine encapsulates each of them. The majority of the blend (55%) is derived from the Leopoldina Vineyard and the wine itself is 89% Cabernet, with the balance coming from other Bordeaux varietals. It’s pure velvet on the palate.

2010 Turnbull Leopoldina Cabernet Franc, $70 • An elegant wine with an exquisite nose, this Cabernet Franc is bolstered by 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

2007 Turnbull Amoenus Cabernet Sauvignon, $120 • Located in Calistoga, the Amoenus Vineyard is Turnbull’s one non-Oakville property. A terrific wine all around, the 2007 Turnbull Amoenus certainly captures the excellence of this particular vintage. The wine is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.

2010 Turnbull Leopoldina Cabernet Sauvignon, NA • This wine is available only through the Turnbull wine club, and even then, is only available as part of a three-pack. I’m not one to advocate joining a wine club just to purchase a wine, but if I was already a Turnbull club member, I would definitely splurge on that three-pack. It was my favorite wine of the tasting; I bought Turnbull’s 2010 Oakville Cab just to have another glimpse of it.

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